Gov’t talks up A&B as transport hub and encourages Caricom countries to join efforts

Gaston Browne
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By Orville Williams

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The government is promoting Antigua and Barbuda’s potential as a transportation hub and urging Caricom countries to band together, amid increased efforts to boost the region’s food security and develop a regional market for agricultural produce.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne represented the nation at the Agri-Investment Forum held in Guyana last week, where he called for more progress on developing a transportation network that would collectively benefit Caribbean countries.

There, Browne argued that it makes little sense to ramp up food production, only to be met with the challenge of transporting the food to the countries in need.

It has previously been suggested that Antigua could serve as a transportation hub, at least for the subregion, and that suggestion seems to be gaining more traction with each discussion.

“I do recall that in my earlier years there was a West Indies shipping company, and I think that the time is ripe as well for there to be a similar company, perhaps learning from the experiences of the past, to be able to move cargo.

“[Especially] given what we’re going to be doing with our own cargo port here as a [transshipment port], where we could maybe [store] larger inventories of goods that are intended for distribution in the Caribbean, with a shipping company operating within these waters,” Information Minister Melford Nicholas explained.

Regional transportation was one of the four priority areas – along with food insecurity, trade barriers and women and youth – put forward for adoption by Caricom heads of government during the forum.

And Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, along with the quasi-Cabinet responsible for transport and agriculture, have been tasked with completing a proposal for establishing adequate and sustainable regional transportation for consideration by the heads of government in July.

Antigua and Barbuda could yet play a big role in that proposal, based on the level of advocacy being done, and the government continued to urge its counterparts around the region to acknowledge and support that potential.

“It would be a good thing if other Caribbean governments come onboard and we are able to jointly exploit the opportunities that are there.

“For future economic growth and development, these are some of the modalities that we’re going to have to evaluate, and I’m pretty certain that in the new term that is to come – all things being equal – we will return to office to be able to continue the work that we’re doing,” Nicholas declared.

In addition, Antigua and Barbuda’s attempts to boost regional air travel could be set to receive some much-needed support, with the Information Minister revealing that, “[The Prime Minister] did indicate [on Wednesday] that [Guyanese] President Irfaan Ali did give certain assurances with respect to air travel and their willingness to become further involved. So, I think that’s a good indication as to where we’re going to go.”

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